What about “Show Don’t Tell” don’t you understand? This question was posed to a group of writers during a writers conference. Their answer? “Everything.” It’s a concept that is easier said than done, and by the writer’s emphatic response this statement is more true today than ever before. This was clearly the case for our conference goers who said they were as bewildered about the subject as they ever were; even after the conference workshop.
Why the lingering misunderstanding?
Resources, such as books, blog articles, and courses are abundant on the Internet and in local area bookstores. So, why is there a lingering misunderstanding about showing versus telling? One answer might be there is a disconnect between the theory and the practical knowledge. Practical knowledge helps a writer identify, and avoid, when they are telling in their writing. Another answer could be the writer’s limited writing experience is at fault. Either way, the writer simply doesn’t comprehend the true difference, therefore, they cannot point out when show don’t tell is applicable.
What about show don’t tell?
What, about show don’t tell, is so essential that writers must comprehend it? Telling is like giving a person a report about a famous painting versus letting them see the painting in person. Is it possible the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” comes to mind right now? Showing makes the writing more believable. When a writer shows instead of telling it allows the reader to “see it” in their imagination and “feel it” in their emotions. Of course, you may have heard this all before. After all, this is still theory and not practical knowledge. So, how does a writer cross over from confusion to comprehension and from theory to practical?
That “Aha” moment
Although there are many, there is one resource we highly recommend to help struggling writer’s cross over.
Janice Hardy, in “Understanding Show, Don’t Tell: (And Really Getting It) (Skill Builders Series Book 1),”1 does a fantastic job explaining the difference between show and tell. Hardy’s writing style, in addition to the examples she provides, lead the reader to that “aha” moment where confusion turns into, “Oh, I get it now.” As a result, the writer is better able to identify and successfully employ show don’t tell in their writing.
One writer had this to say after reading Hardy’s book. “She explained it in every day terms and used actual examples of both show and tell. It was easy to understand. It made it easier to identify when my writing was telling and how to switch it to showing.”
Janice Hardy’s book is definitely on our suggested reading list for writers.
MJP Contributing Writer
- Hardy, Janice Understanding Show, Don’t Tell: (And Really Getting It) (Skill Builders Series Book 1), Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2016